Tuesday, May 03, 2016

It Can Happen Here

It doesn't stop.  The (Republican) former Speaker of the House called Ted Cruz  "Lucifer in the flesh," and satanists who were interviewed renounced him.  His wife, Heidi Cruz, found herself denying that he was the Zodiac Killer--apparently one of those Internet conspiracies given prominence by Comedy Central's Larry Wilmore in his monologue at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Some loved his jokes, some hated them; I thought they were poorly delivered--he seemed a bit overwhelmed-- and consequently just not very funny.)

Meanwhile, Donald Trump claimed to CNN that he has more foreign policy experience than anyone, certainly than former Secretary of State and First Lady. And he made millions in the process (no joke, that's what he said.)

 But the question was in response to a joke at the Correspondents Dinner, this time by President Obama ("They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be President. But, in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.")

But for those who relished the prospect of being entertained by the Trump shock jock campaign before they settle down to a Hillary presidency--maybe not so fast.  The voices have been few but notable--Thomas Franks, then the guy who writes the Dilbert cartoons, and now, at greater length and with elegant arguments, Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine.

Sullivan couches his warning about the power of Trump within a Platonic warning about democracies at their height quickly turning to dictatorships.  He cherrypicks enough characteristics familiar to us now to get your attention.  He continues with an analysis of the erosion of institutional protections against going off the deep end in any directed that the Founders established, and the end of that process (so far) is Trump.

The new media environment unleashes emotion far more than reason, he writes.  And notes the historical pattern of mass movements arises not when things are at their worst but when things are starting to recover (he name-checks Eric Hoffer on this, but it's a known psychological as well as historical phenomenon.)

Sullivan stings every ideology, party, class, point of view and special interest group at least a little (including gay Americans, which Sullivan can get away with, as an outspoken gay man on gender equality and other relevant issues.)  But he is most eloquent interpreting the point of view of the white working class for the elites who read him.  The white working class has been hurt by technology and globalization, then again by the Great Recession and things haven't gotten better except for the elites in charge.

"This is an age in which a woman might succeed a black man as president, but also one in which a member of the white working class has declining options to make a decent living. This is a time when gay people can be married in 50 states, even as working-class families are hanging by a thread. It’s a period in which we have become far more aware of the historic injustices that still haunt African-Americans and yet we treat the desperate plight of today’s white working ­class as an afterthought. And so late-stage capitalism is creating a righteous, revolutionary anger that late-stage democracy has precious little ability to moderate or constrain — and has actually helped exacerbate."

Revolutionaries of the 60s haplessly but sincerely tried to make common cause with the working class, even when some of its members were beating them up at antiwar demonstrations.  But today's left, Sullivan writes, has only contempt for them, politically and culturally, considering them racists and sexists:

"A struggling white man in the heartland is now told to “check his privilege” by students at Ivy League colleges. Even if you agree that the privilege exists, it’s hard not to empathize with the object of this disdain. These working-class communities, already alienated, hear — how can they not? — the glib and easy dismissals of “white straight men” as the ultimate source of all our woes. They smell the condescension and the broad generalizations about them — all of which would be repellent if directed at racial minorities — and see themselves, in Hoffer’s words, “disinherited and injured by an unjust order of things.”"

Of course racism in particular is endemic to Trump's appeal, but self-satisfied ignorance by elites is pretty good cover.  Sullivan sees that the realities cannot be glibly dismissed, even as he highlights the great danger of these emotions being shaped by the likes of Trump."... the most powerful engine for such a movement...is always the evocation of hatred."

Sullivan illustrates the Trump appeals to hatred and violence.  He notes as well the weakness of Hillary's candidacy--that despite Trump's terrible numbers for a general election, her popularity is lower at this point than recent Democratic candidates like Gore and Kerry, who did not become President.

Sullivan ends by addressing the elites who are most likely to be reading his words, to take control, to deny Trump the nomination.  I doubt that's the best prescription for what he sees ailing us, and anyway, after Trump's expected triumph in Indiana later today, it's not going to happen.

What is going to happen, however, will likely be a terrible test.  Without even considering institutional history and philosophies of government, at this time and place we're facing a crisis in the guise of a circus.

Sullivan notes the Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can't Happen Here, and resemblances of the fascist who becomes President in the Great Depression in that fiction, to Trump's basic message.  That story (as in the play version that was one of the Federal Theatre Project's great triumphs, which we commemorated a few years ago with a reading of the play at the Dell'Arte Theatre) is a template for a lot of what we've being seeing from the rabid right and the Republican party for awhile now.  And one feature of it is especially relevant to this campaign: violence on behalf of the candidate.

This is looking like it will be a violent campaign--violent words from candidate Trump and from partisans of both sides, and violence against persons. Just this week Trump supporters in Indiana and West Virginia, and anti-Trump protestors in California are harbingers.  I'm not trying to equate them, but a lot of people will.  Combined with the real threat of Bernie or Bust supporters to divide Democrats and suppress the vote, the danger is too many voters not voting in November.

For that's probably all that has to happen to avoid self-destruction this time, maybe long enough and in a way to throw a different light on all these changes.  And maybe soon enough to deal with the real crises, especially the climate crisis, that threatens not just this democracy, or this society, but human civilization and life as we know it on this planet.

After all the noise and the mud, and perhaps even the blood, people who know better do what is necessary to vote, and vote.  Battling fear, cynicism and despair, vote.  This is the means that's necessary.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Your Moment of Swing: In the Mood



A final Glenn Miller tune, possibly his most lasting: "In the Mood."  This is from the movie Sun Valley Serenade,  so that's actor John Payne at the piano, and lots of shots of co-star Sonia Henie in the audience.  But the rest is the Miller Orchestra of 1941.

Next to maybe Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller is the giant of Swing music, and probably even more of a representative of the Swing era.  I think a lot of the reason is that Glenn Miller crafted songs.  Most of the songs still remembered from the late 30s and early 40s--those with lyrics and especially those without--were introduced or made famous by the Glenn Miller band.

"In the Mood" is one of the classics, an almost perfect pop song as well as buoyant hit of Swing.  It was probably based on a blues riff that made its way into several songs.  In 1935, Joe Garland made his big band arrangement, calling it "There's Rhythm in Harlem."  When Swing took over he gave it to Artie Shaw under the title "In the Mood."  Shaw's band played this version but never recorded it.

It was left to Glenn Miller to edit it, taking out secondary themes and emphasizing the propulsive, happy sounding riff.  He made it a song.  It became one of his signature tunes, and has only increased in popularity.  Musicians from Louis Armstrong to Chuck Berry admired it (Berry claimed that he based the famous guitar riff that starts "Johnny Be Good" on the opening of "In the Mood.")

There are so many versions of "In the Mood" around, including those made by various versions of the Glenn Miller Orchestra that has played for decades after Glenn Miller's death.  One of these later versions is matched to this movie footage on a different YouTube video. (There have to be fifty different versions of this song on YouTube.)

But this is the version recorded for this movie, and it has some tasty differences from the official version that the Miller Orchestra recorded in 1939. The movie also shows the song played in its natural habitat, facing dancers on the dance floor.  This had to be an ecstatic experience to hear and dance to live.

Swing was my mother's music, her rock & roll.  Glenn Miller's was her favorite band, and she was a good dancer.  When the Glenn Miller Orchestra got off the train at the Greensburg station and played at the Coliseum ballroom, she was there.  I love to think of this song making her happy.

 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Welcome to the Reality Show Campaign

It's going to be Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton in America's first Reality Show presidential campaign.  Unless of course something totally weird happens, Reality Show-style.

Among the Democrats, Hillary spent a great deal of her victory speech on Tuesday addressing the concerns of--and therefore addressing--Bernie Sanders voters. Bernie's speech was viewed as a valedictory to his campaign, and on Wednesday he sent the campaign workers he didn't fire to California to make some big noise there, in preparation for making a big noise for the national convention platform committee.

So the Democrats are dull, though Naderite Susan Surandon and former hubbie Tim Robbins are doing their show biz best.  Trump is going to try to make Hillary a Reality Show-worthy opponent, but that might be beyond even his tawdry skills.

But for the moment at least, there's still Ted Cruz to rival Trump in the Reality Show buzz of the moment.  While Trump's assertion Tuesday night that Hillary is a viable candidate only because she's a woman had even Mrs. Chris Christie's eyes rolling, and Trump managed to insult Christie standing behind him again (asserting that John Kasich has gotten almost no votes--why even Chris got more!)--on Wednesday there was Tail Gunner Ted introducing Carly Fiorina as his selection for vice-president.

So this was the most despised presidential candidate of 2016 (which is saying something) even among fellow Republicans, introducing a vp candidate who is so universally loathed that New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz only had to play it completely straight to ridicule the choice in his column Cruz Hopes To Tap Into Immense Popularity of Carly Fiorina.

Maybe that was more Moliere than Reality TV but Carly soon returned it to its proper sphere when from the podium at this announcement she suddenly sang a nursery rhyme to Cruz's daughters.

As USA Today showed, several reporters incredulously tweeted "What is happening?" while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza gave the true political reality show junkie response in his tweet: I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN. I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN. I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN. I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN. I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN. I LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN.

Yeah, well I've never watched more than a few minutes of a reality show, so...wake me when this one is over.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quintrumpled and other Political Notes

Trump has triumphed in all five northeastern primaries, and is currently winning above 60% of the vote in every one.  Update: Though his percentage is dwindling, he's still likely to be above 50% in all, and well above 50% in several, making the Cruz-Kasich pretend alliance meaningless, except as a way to gin up his margins. He's also above 50% for the first time in the NBC national poll announced today.

Nate Cohn at the NYTimes: It is safe to say that Trump is outperforming any benchmark based on his past performances, like our demographic model. Extremely strong showing.
As of now, Hillary has been declared the winner in Maryland, Delaware and  Pennsylvania--the biggie-- but in a tight race in Connecticut and losing to Bernie in Rhode Island.  She'd really like to have Conn., I'll bet.  Clinton is hovering around 60% as well in the three states she's won so far. Looks like the moment for her victory speech.  Bernie, as usual, made his non-concession speech early enough to get airtime, but in terms of the results, maybe too early. Update: Rhode Island called for Bernie. NYTimes reports likely Clintonian areas of Conn. haven't yet been counted.  Update 2: Clinton takes Connecticut.

Political Note:Trumpled Here First

From the Nation early Tuesday:

Republican Donald Trump, on the eve of primary elections in five states that he is expected to sweep, launched blistering attacks on Monday on rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich for their 11th-hour joint effort aimed at denying him the party's presidential nomination.

From eminent (i.e.paid) political writer Chris Cillizza  in the Washington Post:

If Donald Trump could have engineered a scenario that would fire up his anti-establishment base any more than it already is, the public announcement of a Cruz-Kasich alliance would be how he would have done it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Political Note: Trumpled

Tailgunner Ted Cruz and John Kasich, two of the three remaining aspirants to the GOPer presidential nomination, announced through their campaigns that they are cooperating on a strategy to stop Donald Trump from going to the convention with enough delegates to win on the first ballot.

Unless I miss my guess on what Trump will now do, I'm pretty sure this move all but guarantees Trump the nomination.

I expect Trump to meet this with righteous fulmination, resulting in big wins on Tuesday and either humiliating victories in the states where these two choose to go one-on-one with Trump or enough sustained noise to scare GOPer delegates into putting Trump over on the first ballot if he's anywhere close to a majority.

If these guys had tried to make Trump's angry hordes angrier, they couldn't have done better than this strategy, which plays directly into the perception of cynical party politics thwarting the public will.

The only way this could possibly work is that by each training their campaign ads and speeches on Trump's deficiencies instead of each other's, they cut into Trump's support and expose a serious vulnerability.

But right now it just looks like a response to Trump's overwhelming victory in New York and his likely victories in the northeastern primaries this week.  Ordinary voters expect candidates to either be in the race or out of it, not playing in some states and not in others. Without much in the way of a public rationale or public outcry, this looks as cynical and political as it gets.

Moreover, Trump realized that the more and louder he talked about issues not on his primary agenda, the more trouble he was getting into.  He's all but disappeared for the last few weeks.  Now he's got something new and pretty safe to shout about. Cruz and Kasich are about to be Trumpled.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Coincidental Genius

Four hundred years ago today, the deaths of two literary giants were recorded: William Shakespeare and Cervantes.  Though there's dispute over the actual day they died, officially it is the same day for both: April 23, 1616.

The two men apparently did not meet (Shakespeare never left England,  and after his soldiering days Cervantes stayed in Spain) and probably did not know about each other's work.  Still the coincidence of this day is the occasion for a symposium at the Newberry research library in Chicago (and elsewhere), a which-said-what quotes quiz (it's predictably tricky) and an article on the subject in the Guardian, which points out that April 23 is also the death date given for William Wordsworth, Rupert Brooke and some lesser known poets.

Also a comparison of the lives and work of Shakespeare and Cervantes that notes that a 2002 poll of 100 unnamed international writers named Don Quixote the "most meaningful book of all time."

Oddly, I stumbled on the coincidental death day by sheer coincidence (Kowincidence?)  I've started reading a few pages of J.B. Priestley's Literature and Western Man (published in 1960--when "man" was still an acceptably encompassing synonym for human) before bed, and a week or so ago I got to the page where he noted these deaths on this date of April 23, 1616.  Apparently my math skills were up to realizing this was an anniversary year, though it took a calculator to figure out the exact number of years.

What's fascinating is that these are not just two famous writers--their work is arguably the most famous in the western world and considerably beyond it.  They are the most famous writers, in two areas of literature.  As Priestly wrote, "Perhaps only Shakespeare has captured and delighted more minds than Cervantes."

Shakespeare worked in what became the dominant form of his time and place, plays for the stage.  His work helped make it dominant, and transformed theatre for all time.

The secret of his perennial appeal, Priestly writes, might be not only the range of what he dramatized but his insistence on not being one-sided.  "In his desire to keep a balance, his wrestling with the opposites, even the very kinds of opposites they were, despite his immensely rich nature (and rich is surely his favorite word) and many-sided genius, he comes close to generations of ordinary Western men of intelligence and good will.  It is perhaps the secret of his hold upon our world, century after century...."

"Though he conjures up everything from lyrical young love and gossamer fairylands to darkest witchcraft and bloody murder, he always leads us home...If the day ever comes when Shakespeare is no longer acted, read, and studied, quoted and loved, Western Man will be near his end."

Drama was also the dominant form in Spain, but Cervantes did something else.  He put together some existing forms of tales to create something new.  Don Quixote is generally considered to be the first novel.  As Priestly writes: "...and in the gathering shadows of the age and his own time (in contemporary terms he was an old man), with no patron, no salaried place, few prospects, rich only in experience, memory, knowledge of men, the one-handed old soldier began to write his book.  Then out of that experience, memory, knowledge, and an eruption of genius, he wrote the best novel in the world."

 But literary definitions aside, he certainly defined a huge area for the novels to come. "Through its bustle of roads and inns, its sense of movement, colour and life, he reached far forward to inspire all the novelists who set their characters wandering."  So to Fielding, to Dickens, Melville, Kerouac, Jim Harrison.  "And as the magical ironist of the relativity of reality, of truth at war with illusion, he might be said to have pointed further forward still..."  To Ibsen, Joyce, and pretty much everyone since.

"Of all our great novelists," he concludes, " he is the youngest, because he is the first, and the oldest, because his tale of the mad knight is an old man's tale.  He is also the wisest."

It is worth mentioning that though both writers were famous in their time, by April 1616 the world had seemingly moved on, never to return.  Shakespeare's drama was already going out of style at the end of his career. Though some of his plays were always performed somewhere in the years after his death, his work was not so appreciated again until the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the 19th century. Similarly, the novel did not emerge in a big way until about then, especially in England, and Cervantes' role as a pioneer as well as an exemplary became cherished.

So these two geniuses, together responsible for much of what life and letters are like today, died on pretty much the same day.  Or...did they just return to where they came from on the same spaceship?

Political Notes: Clinton-Warren

After my post on the subject, Ed Kilgore at New York put some actual reporting behind my contention that GOPer pols would love to run against Bernie Sanders, reviving McCarthyism for the 21st century.

About the only thing that has excited me so far during this campaign is the possibility supported by Kilgore that Hillary should select Elizabeth Warren as her running mate.  I agree completely--and I especially feel it would inject some passion into what looks to be a teeth-grinding general election campaign.  The other possibilities being mentioned (Tim Kaine?--give me a break) are uniformly uninspiring.

Despite Clinton's apparent confidence that Sanders supporters will come home to her in the likely event that she wins the nomination (made more likely by her convincing win in New York), she should not ignore especially the age gap, which this LA Times article suggests is starting to supersede race and ethnicity.   Running with Warren--with her rep and her stump style--seems likely to pretty much erase that gap.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Planet and Public Health

Today is Earth Day in America, which seems to have assumed all the significance of Arbor Day.  But on this particular Earth Day, some 175 nations of the Earth are meeting at the UN to formally sign the Paris agreement on confronting the Climate Crisis.

There is optimism that the goals named in the agreement can be reached sooner than promised.  But there's also been news since the Paris negotiations that make addressing the causes of the climate crisis even more urgent.

I've noted several of these, but the Washington Post has a summary (How Earth itself has dramatically upped the stakes for the Paris climate accord,) and John Sutter at CNN a list of what needs to be done (Stop Ruining the Future.)

But in addition to addressing the causes, the climate crisis demands that we prepare to address the effects.  In supporting its position advocating efforts to address the causes, the American College of Physicians listed some of the effects that doctors--and public health systems--are already starting to confront:

Respiratory illnesses, including asthma and COPD. Rising temperatures are causing an increase in ozone pollution, smoke from wildfires, and allergens produced by weeds, grasses and trees. Homes affected by heavy rains or flooding can become host to toxic mold and fungi.

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which are particularly dangerous for children and the elderly.

Insect-borne illnesses, like Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya, which are ranging farther north as mosquitoes thrive in warmer climates.

Water-borne illnesses, such as cholera, which can spread if drought causes poor sanitation or if heavy flooding causes sewer systems to overflow.

Mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression connected to natural disasters, as well as the anxiety and stress that accompanies days of hot weather."

All of these require a public health response, but after decades of budget cuts and the demonization of public agencies, is the United States public health system up to the challenge?  Shouldn't we be urgently asking that question?

A lack of consensus on public health, a dearth of attention to these climate crisis threats and a general lack of knowledge can add up to a dangerous inability to respond in a public health emergency, spreading panic and discord which rapidly makes a bad situation worse.

For all the potential causes of virtual anarchy on any level, there are really two that can create anarchy quickly: a food availability crisis (which is often a food price crisis) or a public health crisis--the spread of a disease or condition without efforts that are effective and generally believed to be the right ones.

We don't have to go back in history to see some of the problems.  Laurie Garrett's review of Pandemic, a book by Sonia Shaw in the New York Times Book Review last month reveals giant failures among the world's nations to address public health concerns.  She tells of the mistakes made in early efforts to confront Ebola, resulting in thousands of deaths, and particularly the ongoing cholera crisis in Haiti, where it remains because of failure to fix the water and sewage systems.

Shaw's book itself offers a more than cautionary tale about how politics, psychology and ego can be stubbornly fatal in addressing epidemics, in her description of cholera in Europe in the 19th century, when evidence that pathogens in the water caused the disease was dismissed several times because of the belief (supported by politics and ego) that cholera was caused by the smell of human waste, which led to even more contamination of water and even worse outbreaks of the disease.

Public health, like the climate crisis itself, involves many interacting factors that must all be addressed simultaneously.  (Mosquito nets are useless unless there is a system to get them to the people who need them, as is not the case in much of Africa, for example.)  Public health requires cooperation in common efforts, and trust in public institutions.  As we've seen recently here in California, it only takes a small group refusing vaccination and inoculation to spread diseases that otherwise might disappear.

In fact many perennially common diseases from polio to measles began to disappear from American family life in the 1950s through the 1970s, when public trust in public health was high, and funding for public health was unquestioned.  We may face our next set of public health crises with neither of those.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Your Moment of Swing



It's another Glenn Miller hit, this time from his second movie, "Orchestra Wives." The film is more centered on the orchestra itself and to some extent on the real problems of wives on tour with musician husbands, but mostly it's a love story starring Ann Rutherford and George Montgomery, with some current and future dazzlers as the other wives.  As a follow to the previous movie's hit "Chatanooga Cho-Cho," this number-- "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo"--features another town with a musical name, and also a Tex Beneke vocal with a coda that has an even longer Nicholas Brothers dance routine.  You can see where Michael Jackson got a lot of his moves.

You might recognize Caesar Romero and Jackie Gleason as supposed members of the band--Romero gets more lines in the movie, but Gleason looks like he might actually know how to play bass.

But the star of this video is the dynamic blonde in the middle of the singers, Marion Hutton.  Marion's sister Betty had a longer and more successful career in show business, but Marion sang with the Glenn Miller Orchestra from its beginnings in 1938.

She had a bad childhood (abandoned by her father, her mother was a bootlegger) and a sad later adulthood as an alcoholic who devoted her last years to helping fellow addicts. But when she was 17, Glenn Miller and his wife became her legal guardians and she began singing with the Orchestra.  This film was made in 1942, the last year of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which disbanded when Miller joined the Army Air Force and was later lost flying over the English channel.

Marion sang and appeared in a few more movies in the 40s but this number was pretty much her highlight.  She's 21 and full of energy, sparkle and wit.  The joy of the music and the moment is present in her every expression and gesture.  Not many of us get such a high moment of our lives captured so well for others, but Marion did, and here it is.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Afternoon with Steph and Barack


Beachy

Nice day, how about a visit to Mad River Beach?  Sunny and pretty warm here but you can't predict the beach--likely it's cooler and maybe windier.  So experience teaches.

Turns out we'd moved to San Diego without moving.

First of all, the place was full of cars.  The ocean access parking lot was overfilled, the road had parked cars back to the turnoff to Mad River (where the huge expanse of asphalt parking lot was still flooded.)

The beach therefore was a good deal more populated than usual.  And what a sight for a North Coast beach: lots of people in bathing suits on beach blankets and frolicking in the surf.  I've never seen anything like it.  Here.

Among those on the beach seemed to be a lot of students, and given HSU's recruitment orientation these days, probably from southern California.  They must have felt right at home.  But where is home?

There was no wind, and the sun was hot.  It was hot on the ocean beach.  It felt like at least 80.  No need for even the light windbreaker I brought.

So this collision of feelings: This is great!  This is way weird!  I've felt it before in the past few years, but never so sharply.

Officially it was a record-breaker at 74 degrees F.  And as it turned out, it was also a record-breaker in San Diego, where it was officially 84.

It could be ascribed to just the usual unusual weather, I suppose.  Except that it's happening a lot.  And then there's the beautiful linden tree next door.  It's usually the last to shed its leaves in the winter, and the last to turn green again in summer.  But its all green and leafy now.

If I were Thoreau, who kept a careful record of all such things where he lived, I could provide exact dates.  So I don't know for sure.  But it certainly seems early.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Feeling the Nader

It may be temporary, since the big primaries are coming up that may decide the Democratic presidential nomination, but at the moment things look to be veering towards disaster because of conflict between the two candidates and their campaigns.

By all accounts the most recent debate was loud and acrimonious, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shouting at each other simultaneously.  Can you even imagine Barack Obama shouting at someone in a debate?

As embarrassing as that behavior was, the sharpness of attacks and the stories coming out of the Sanders campaign in particular are alarming some observers with the possibility of a split party going into a fateful election, where pretty much the only possibility of losing it would be Democratic voters staying home.

In particular the Sanders campaign is making the argument that Hillary's delegate lead is based on primary wins that don't reflect the will of the party because they were in the red states South.  Or as Ed Kilgore ended his review of the debate:

Sanders seems to be trying out an argument that Clinton's nomination-contest victories are irrelevant because they happened at the wrong time (early in the process), the wrong place (the South), or with the wrong supporters (old Democrats rather than young independents).

If he goes over the brink into a claim that a pledged-delegate victory by Clinton is illegitimate, the Democratic convention could be nearly as divisive as the Republican confab looks sure to become. After tonight, the superior unity of Democrats is at least partially in question for the first time.

(Kilgore followed up with a piece dissecting this argument, finding the argument strange in that Hillary didn't win white southerners so much as African Americans, and one of her biggest wins was in Florida, a swing state.  The argument seemed to be saying that the young white voters Sanders was winning counted more than older and non-white voters Hillary was winning.)

Beyond this argument there were charges that Sanders supporters were getting a little too enthusiastic, making unfortunate metaphors about "corporate whores" and at least making noises about harassing delegates.

Paul Krugman for one saw Sanders righteousness turning into self-righteousness.   After evaluating Sanders' statements on the Big Banks as lacking realistic solutions, he wondered if this increasingly angry tone and Trumpish behavior was moving towards a schism in the party:

Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the “Bernie or bust” crowd, walking away if he can’t pull off an extraordinary upset, and possibly helping put Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House? If not, what does he think he’s doing?

The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism and energy that the progressive movement needs. It has also, however, brought out a streak of petulant self-righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?

The real problem then would be the feedback effect of Sanders encouraging the rigidity of his supporters, so that if he loses the nomination they won't vote for the Democratic nominee.

In other words, a number of observers are starting to feel the Nader.


Ralph Nader ran for President several times, but most notoriously in the year 2000 as the Green Party candidate.  Nader was a well-known public figure, an effective speaker who began his career as an heroic advocate.

 Meanwhile, the Green Party was growing, nowhere more conspicuously than here in far northern California.  Shortly after our arrival in Arcata, the Green Party actually took majority control of the city council.

So we heard a lot of the Green arguments for Nader, and against the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.  Apart from their ecological and economic issues (with which I had no major disagreements), they argued that there was no essential difference between Gore and Bush.  Or, as their bumper stickers declared, Gush and Bore.

I remember literally being in a fever sweat the night before election day, feeling helpless to effectively warn people about the mistake they were making in believing this.  I knew George W. Bush was dangerous, I could see it.  And I knew from experience that failing to elect the lesser of two evils meant that the greater evil took power.  (In that case it was Nixon.)  But I didn't see Gore as an evil--I saw past the media stereotypes--though I did see Bush that way.

And sure enough, the debacle of the first President dictated by a partisan Supreme Court could likely have been avoided if Nader voters in Florida had voted for Gore.

Later I attended a local meeting of Democrats and Greens who were attempting to reconcile.  I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was far enough long that everyone understood what a catastrophe Bush was.  The Greens were defensive and the Democrats were angry.  Eventually the meeting agreed to pursue common goals etc.

But after the 2000 election, the Green Party hereabouts and in California began a slow but precipitous decline.  As far as I know, there are no Greens on the Arcata city council now (their official biographies don't mention political affiliation) as the council has moved to the right.  In 2015, only five candidates endorsed by the Greens (though not all party members) were elected to any offices in Humboldt, and they were minor offices.  In the rest of California, the number was six.  The Green Party's influence was always greatest on the local and sometimes the state levels.  Not so much anymore.

Today, Bernie is very popular here.  At the last North County Fair I noted a buzz around the Sanders booth, and dead quiet at the Clinton table.  I see Bernie bumper stickers and signs, and none for Hillary.  But just what does that mean?

Some of it is obvious.  Like the campaign sign in the video store on H Street: Free College Tuition, Vote Bernie.  But in political terms it can be more complicated than support for a candidate based on whatever positions, or on attraction to a personality or belief in an individual.

Ed Kilgore has yet another pertinent post. He quotes a liberal journalist who posted on Talking Point Memo to say he backed Bernie, but wasn't sure he would continue to do so if Bernie looked like he actually could win the nomination.

Kilgore suggests this liberal isn't alone.  I've been hearing this for at least a couple of years: "Back Elizabeth Warren in the primary, vote for Hillary in the general."  Except Warren didn't run and Bernie did.

There are three reasons people take this approach.  First, the assumption that a farther left candidate wasn't going to win the nomination, but it was important to send a message, to influence Hillary and prep for the future.  Second (and not everyone who holds the first reason would agree with this) is that Bernie is great for representing these issues, but he hasn't shown he's ready for the Presidency.  The third reason is that if he were the Democratic nominee, he would lose.

The Sanders campaign is touting poll numbers that show that this last reason is not valid--that indeed, Bernie polls stronger than Hillary against the likely Republican candidates.  But there are strong reasons for not believing those numbers will hold up.  First, Sanders is still a kind of symbol, and otherwise an unknown quantity.  Which means that, second, the Republicans have not yet tried to define him, to run against him.

Their quiet is ominous.  Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist.  It's pretty remarkable that someone calling himself a socialist has gotten this far, and while that might be a good reflection on the times, it is probably also because the Republicans haven't said a word about it.  If he actually won the nomination, their currently whispered prayers would be answered.

The sludge they are preparing to throw at Hillary is nothing compared with what they would attempt to do to Bernie.  It used to be that Socialist meant Communist, and people felt about Communists about the way they feel about ISIS terrorists today.

After the success of McCarthyism in eradicating socialism from legitimate public dialogue in America, the rabid right has been so successful in moving that dialogue farther and farther to the right that since the Reagan 80s, the word "liberal" has taken on much of the sinister taint of the word Communist or at least socialist in the 50s.

Also consider that some Republicans continued to call Barack Obama a socialist, a radical, and unAmerican.  (That indeed was the establishment candidate Marco Rubio's claim.)  Consider then what they would do with a candidate who actually is--or at least who actually calls himself--a socialist.

There is no doubt that capitalism is coming up against its fatal flaws, which are its addiction to growth and its need to push costs off on the helpless in order to make a profit.  They do it with "cheap" or slave labor (just as they used to with actual slaves), and by benefiting from government spending on the infrastructure and the regulations that keep them in business, and by forcing costs onto future generations while depleting the ability of the planet to sustain life, through profligate use of natural resources, and the damage they cause to the planet's natural systems, to water, soil, air and climate.  Some of which others have to pay to clean up (usually in the future) while much of it everyone pays for with their health, their planet's bounty and its character, and with the depleted lives of their descendants.

Capitalism as it is now constituted is unlikely to be up to the challenges of the future, the climate crisis in particular.  Our economics will have to change.  Whether that is a large change to something like socialism (and of course, we already have many of the features that socialists have advocated for more than a century, and some other countries have even more) remains to be seen.

Though Sanders talks about a "revolution," his proposals are not quite worthy of the name.  Still, there is obviously a hunger for addressing the issues of economic inequality and economic injustice that Sanders has focused, and that's good.  Somebody has to be talking about these things, and somebody should keep alive such notions as a carbon tax.

So if Bernie Sanders can convince a majority of Democratic voters in New York, Pennsylvania, etc. to California sufficient to a plurality of delegates that he should be the nominee, then perhaps the "revolution" he speaks about is real. (Though it falls far short of what a revolution might be.)  But these attempts to delegitimize the outcome of prior primaries, to intimidate superdelegates and to demonize the opponent won't prove it.  Quite the opposite.

Susan Surandon, supporting Nader in 2000, supports
Sanders now--and refuses to say she'd vote for another
Democratic nominee.
And with the confrontational nature of this campaign--between, it must be said, two candidates who seem to lack a sense of humor--threatening to damage the eventual nominee's chances in November, it's getting into Naderite territory.  The result of which could again be the election of a disastrous President--and we may not be able to afford another one--as well as a serious setback for the very issues and politics that Sanders and his supporters advocate.

Hillary Clinton is hardly the ideal candidate, in any number of ways.  But at least her campaign is locked into supporting and continuing the policies and approach of President Obama.  Up until recently, Sanders was effectively focusing her attention on his issues as well.  Lately, as he attacked her, she has become defensive on these issues in a way that is the opposite of the desired effect.

Maybe this phase will be over by Tuesday night.  But the longer it continues and the more extreme it gets, the more dangerous it becomes, and the more likely to spiral out of control.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

#24 and #73

What an amazing night for basketball fans.  Especially in California.

It was the wonder of the past and of the future, both dazzling in the present moment.

After 20 years, Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game Wednesday night at home in LA. An old guy near 40 and coming off injuries, his farewell tour performances were often cameos, in the worst Lakers season in their history. But in several games late in the season, there were flashes of the old Kobe. He scored in the 30 point range a few times.

Wednesday the Lakers were playing Utah, a team that until game time was hoping for a playoff berth, but Houston had nabbed it. The Lakers players fed Kobe the ball and urged him to shoot just about every time down the court. But these advantages mean nothing unless you make the baskets. And Kobe did. Drives to the hoop, steals and one-man fast breaks, and three pointers. He hit two three pointers in the last minute and a half of the game, to give the Lakers their first lead. And improbably, they won.

Even more improbably, Kobe Bryant had scored 60 points in his last NBA game, 23 in the fourth quarter alone. Nobody his age had ever scored even 40 in their last NBA game. Kobe, who once scored 81 and had a string of 50 plus nights, hasn't scored 60 since 2009. He retires as the NBA's third leading scorer. He was praised before the game by Magic Johnson. He even hugged Shaq, who was one of Kobe's former teammates on hand for the occasion.

I remember those 3 championships with Kobe and Shaq.  I still have tapes of Kobe's later two (all with Phil Jackson as his coach.)  And I watched every game I could of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90s (which was alot since I had cable TV then, and in Pittsburgh the package included the Chicago station that broadcast the Bulls) when they set the NBA record for most wins in a season at 72. (The old record had been 69.)

Kobe's career had a storybook ending Wednesday night. Now Kobe is past, and so is that Bulls record.   Because the future is at Golden State.

On Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors won their 73rd game, breaking the single season record for victories nobody thought would ever be broken. They had to win their last four games to do it, including two against another team having a remarkable year, the San Antonio Spurs.

Steph Curry scored 46 points, including 10 three pointers. The record for 3 pointers in a season was set last year (by Curry) at 289. Earlier this season Curry became the first NBA player to hit 300. And Wednesday, he became the first to hit more than 400. He finished the regular season with 402.

This storybook season ended where it should have, at home at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

Next weekend the Warriors begin the playoffs as the top seed, beginning their quest for a second championship in a row. That's their immediate future, with a pretty bright future as a team.

What a night for basketball.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Future of the Climate Crisis is the Climate Crisis Future

It's finally beginning to sink in.  The future is going to be very different, because of the climate crisis.

Global heating is going to have consequences for the near future, since it is caused by past greenhouse gases pollution.  We should be preparing to address the effects, but apparently we're just starting to understand the breadth and depth of those effects.

From Reuters last week:

Climate change can be expected to boost the number of annual premature U.S. deaths from heat waves in coming decades and to increase mental health problems from extreme weather like hurricanes and floods, a U.S. study said on Monday.

"I don't know that we've seen something like this before, where we have a force that has such a multitude of effects," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters at the White House about the study. "There's not one single source that we can target with climate change, there are multiple paths that we have to address."

Heat waves were estimated to cause 670 to 1,300 U.S. deaths annually in recent years. Premature U.S. deaths from heat waves can be expected to rise more than 27,000 per year by 2100, from a 1990 baseline, one scenario in the study said. The rise outpaced projected decreases in deaths from extreme cold.


Extreme heat can cause more forest fires and increase pollen counts and the resulting poor air quality threatens people with asthma and other lung conditions. The report said poor air quality will likely lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, hospital visits, and acute respiratory illness each year by 2030.

Climate change also threatens mental health, the study found. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and general anxiety can all result in places that suffer extreme weather linked to climate change, such as hurricanes and floods. More study needs to be done on assessing the risks to mental health, it said."

These effects include more widespread disease borne by insects whose warm-weather range is increased, which may include the increasingly worrisome Zika virus.

Science Daily offers more details from this multi-agency, peer reviewed report, particularly about the mental effects.  But it also includes this interesting key to the future:

Emerging evidence also shows those who are actively involved in climate change adaptation, or mitigation, might experience considerable health and well-being benefits, the report adds.



Translated into human, it means that people who work at addressing the causes and effects of the climate crisis  are likely to benefit themselves as well as others.  But doing good--and doing something--may well provide more than better health.  Either gradually or suddenly but pretty certainly eventually, a lot of the economy is going to be devoted to addressing the effects and the causes of the climate crisis.  That means more jobs--and what may well be seen as more vocations, more calls to service--in areas like clean energy, public health and new infrastructure.  (See the efforts for 1 million climate change jobs.)

The barriers to understanding and accepting all this are due partly to the climate inside.  In addition to denial, this commentator suggests dissociative behavior in response to predictions and now the realities of the climate crisis are due to societal trauma going back generations.  (He even uses the authentic version of a widely misquoted Jung quotation.) He suggests this trauma must be recognized and dealt with before society can really face up to the climate crisis future.

That future of dramatic effects may be coming soon.  In addition to last week's news about the possible effects of faster polar melting, there's this new study that suggests the cooling effect of clouds has been overstated. "If the findings are borne out by further research, it suggests that making progress against global warming will be even harder," notes the NY Times.

There is a range of uncertainty in all these figures.  But they can safely be regarded as minimums.  That's only prudent.  While scientists and statisticians do their research, leaders and parents ought to be facing up to the general outline of this future, dominated by the climate crisis and its effects.  People will live and work in this future, and how to do that constructively, to minimize suffering and try to prevent even worse outcomes, is the work of the future that starts now.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Your Moment of Swing



Ready for a time out from whatever angst's ya?  Here's a treat from 1941--the Glenn Miller Orchestra doing "Chattanooga Choo Choo" from the movie "Sun Valley Serenade."  But don't stop when the song seems to be over, because the second half is a special treat--the fabulous Nicholas Brothers dance team, and a very young Dorothy Dandridge.  It was nominated for the Best Song Oscar and became the first certified Gold Record.  Hermes Pan staged the movie's dances--he worked with Fred Astaire on almost all of his movies.  It's got great music, charming singing and dynamite dancing---how could you keep from smiling?

And yes, that is a young Milton Berle, who plays the band's manager (he does his own skiing stunts, too.)  Besides being one of only two movies Glenn Miller did, it was a Sonja Henie vehicle.  Her act was skating, which she does especially at the end of the movie. Not long after the movie was released, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II and shortly afterwards, an over-age Glenn Miller joined the army.  Just three years after this movie, he was entertaining troops in Europe when his plane went down crossing the English channel and was never found.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tonight's Notes

CNN: Keystone pipeline leak estimate grows to 16,800 gallons of oil

New York Times: New York Moves on Restricting Costumed Characters in Times Square



And the big news around here is the deal to remove Oregon dams to help the health of the rivers and especially the salmon.  Bloomberg:

The Obama administration, the governors of California and Oregon and PacifiCorp will instead pursue decommissioning of the dams administratively through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and others said at a signing ceremony held at the mouth of the Klamath River.



Meanwhile, federal and state agencies, the company, Native American tribal governments, the Klamath Water Users Association, environmental groups and others who negotiated the expired agreement continued to collaborate to move the dam removal project and restoration forward, Jewell said.

“Tearing out the four dams on the Klamath will be a huge leap forward for the river,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said in a written statement. “It will open up hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat, get rid of shallow reservoirs that trap warm water and cause algae blooms, and help finally repair a long stream of injustices to the tribes and communities along the river.”

Today's Notes

The average temp here for April 6 is 56 degrees.  The highest recorded temp was 70.  Yesterday---April 6, 2016--it got to 80.  We're close to today's record as well, but probably won't surpass it.

The current spat between Bernie Sanders and Hillary is a bit troubling.  Hillary challenged Bernie's qualifications, though she never in fact said he was "unqualified." Bernie has however made headlines by saying Hillary is unqualified.  This is a rhetorical exercise that he will probably walk back in the next debate.  But even in the furor of Hillary's famous 3 am in the White House ad challenging Senator Barack Obama's experience in 2008, Obama never said she was unqualified, nor as far as I recall did she say that of him.

 "Unqualified" is making headlines, mostly because one of Hillary's prime arguments is that she is more qualified, and because "qualified" is a major deal, and because the charge puts her in the company of Trump as unqualified, and lastly because she's a woman.  Bernie has gone too far this time.

Other matters: President Obama on the threat to the judicial integrity central to American justice because of the blatantly partisan political refusal by Senate Republicans to consider the appointment of Garland to be Supreme Court justice.

Jonathan Chiat on how Ted Cruz is a terrible candidate for President, even if he is less terrible than Donald Trump.  And Chiat yesterday--pretty interesting piece on the pragmatism of black voters over the years (and why they aren't supporting Bernie in the primaries.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

News Flash! We Have an Actual President, and He's Doing Stuff

Lost in the flow of desperate nonsense called the 2016 primary campaign are some real achievements by the actual President of the United States.

President Obama's trip to Cuba for instance will have lasting consequences for that country, the US, and relations with the rest of the Latin countries.  His address to the Cuban people alone was historic and influential.  His visit and all that followed broke some of Cuba's isolation, and is already having political as well as cultural consequences there.

At the start of his presidency, Obama started work on enacting a grand vision of a nuclear free world.  But it's been a little forward and maybe more back in recent years.  Russia continues to bandy about the possibility of  nuclear war, and has developed new nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  Its military operations in Syria, and especially its bombing missions, have fit the classic profile of a test-run of new technologies.

All of this was evident at the recent nuclear summit, which Russia did not attend.  But the good news perhaps is that the partnership Obama has forged with China on addressing the climate crisis has involved that country in at least talking about the need to limit and reduce nuclear weapons in the world.  The Summit focused on keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, and ended with an agreement.

And while GOPers prattle about torture and demonizing Muslims as their response to terrorist acts, President Obama has led an effective effort against ISIS that in recent months has depleted its leadership.  His recommendations for the future are reality-based and practical, such as better international information-sharing.

Domestically, while Obamacare is a success that surprises even its supporters, and the U.S. economy is adding jobs and finally income to the less than wealthy, President Obama took another big step towards economic justice with rules that penalize companies for various practices that allow companies to avoid US taxes and move profits overseas.  Despite GOPer grousing, he made the case Tuesday.

And there is likely more to come in what Jonathan Chiat called Obama's Last Lap. It's unfortunate that the momentarily outrageous sucks up all the attention, but then again, maybe it's a good thing that all these accomplishments with lasting consequences are being effected without turmoil, hiding in plain sight.

Meanwhile, President Obama is providing some of the most trenchant evaluations of ongoing campaign rhetoric, from the rise of Trump to the harm that cockeyed proposals by Cruz and Trump is doing to American credibility in the world.  Plus he's had some words for media responsibility, which didn't go down too well among the pundits.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Trump Card is the Joker

It's been wishful thinking so far, but now it may be happening.  Donald Trump is self-destructing, and his nomination by the Republican party is slipping away.

After so many have said so and been wrong, E. J. Dionne was brave enough to say it now, and I'm sure many more are thinking it.

Gabriel Sherman's insightful profile of the Trump for President operation suggests two reasons why this is happening, or maybe three.  Trump has been skillful and mesmerizing, and as Sherman writes, many of the outrageous positions he's taken have been the result of research--though that research was of the issues that most resonated on rabid right talk radio.

Sherman also reports what many have suggested--that Trump's political operation is very small and very inexperienced.

But three things have been happening.  Sherman writes that Trump seems very tired, and I've noticed this as well.  He's never been through anything like this, and it's wearing him down.

Second, at this stage of the campaign he's in over his head, or, to put it in today's jargon, outside his comfort zone.  He's being questioned, and he's answering, on topics not only beyond his experience or knowledge, but outside the rabid right radio-tested set of issues.

So now he's making pronouncements in his patented aggressive style that baffle everyone.  Tired, over his head and outside his core issues, he isn't resonating--he's just raving.

Some of his extreme assertions have some supporters, though few and fringe.  Others are just lunatic ravings.  And dangerous.

The test of this premise will be in the next several primaries.  The conventional wisdom is giving the Wisconsin primary to Cruz.  If Trump wins it, his chances for the nomination become strong again (and naysayers will be wrong again), especially since this is likely to buttress support in New York and other big states that follow.  If Cruz wins Wisconsin, he has the momentum, and Trump will have to stop him in New York, or his situation becomes dire.

The fractures in the Republican party have become so deep and open that in the last candidates forum, none of the three remaining candidates sounded like they would support the nominee if it wasn't them.  Trump has since said as well that if denied the nomination he might run anyway.  Somehow I don't think he will.

Few dispute that with Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP will lose many congressional races and maybe governorships. They will most likely lose the Senate.  And judging by some of the extreme numbers against Trump summarized last week in the Washington Post ("Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.") he will lose the presidency.

Trump has triumphed by being the Joker, the wild card.  But he's in danger of becoming the joke.  Many Republicans are completely open about wanting to stop him.  They will however need the cooperation of voters. And if Trump loses the protection of his mystique and people start seeing him as a dangerous loudmouth crank, they may get it.

Update: I hadn't realized when I wrote this that Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker had even more pointedly referred to Trump as the Joker, more specifically the one in Batman (which I'd hoped was implied as a doubled image in my use.)  But Gopnik's piece is a fun read, especially as it begins with the saga of the prank petition to allow guns to be openly carried into the Republican National Convention.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The New Normal

The calendar says our rainy season is just about over, but the weather says it's been over for at least a week.  After all the El Nino hype and the weeks when the storms came one after another, this winter averaged out to be...average.

January and March were about 50% above normal each.  But February was dry, and December was only moist.  The lines of storms in March replenished many of the major reservoirs, and the Sierras got snow.  But when they measured the Sierras snowpack, it turned out to be average, or a little below.

Average is of course a vast improvement over last year, or the past several years.  That all this wasn't enough to bust the drought isn't too surprising.  But it brings up some uneasy questions.

For instance: if it took a very strong El Nino to bring us average rainfall, what's going to be "average" in the future?  We tend to associate "average" with "normal."  Both might denote a range of what's normal for our climate.  But what's next year going to be like, without an El Nino, and perhaps with the opposite?

"Average" has already changed, as each year's rainfall, or lack of it, gets added into the statistics from which an average is taken.  The nagging thought is that the new normal is going to be dry compared to what it used to be, and maybe too dry for this environment to remain the same.

In the long run, the North Coast was going to suffer the consequences of sea level rise, as much or more than other places.  (They say our sea level rise is already the highest in California.)  But in terms of climate, the foggy coast and other factors were said to protect the North Coast from extreme temperatures.  I'm not sure where rainfall fits into that.  But some say even the fog is declining, and therefore the redwoods and the ecosystem in general is vulnerable.  We're not getting a pass from global heating or the climate crisis.

And according to future averages, this past winter may turn out to have been a rainy one after all.

But a glance at the google news page (from New York: "Forecast: Extreme Weather on the Way," "UK Weather: Britain To Be Hotter Than Ibizza as temperature soar," Washington "Weather Alert: Extreme Winds, Cold Temps," "Severe Storms Spawn at least 20 Tornadoes From Plains to South")  reaffirms we are still blessed.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Meanwhile Back on Planet Earth...

The news is not good.

And no, this is not an April Fool's joke.

Little more than a week ago, a new study suggested that the planet is already heating to the point that an abrupt climate shift could be triggered, leading to enough sea level rise in fifty years--not centuries as most climate science says-- to force evacuations from coastal cities.  The New York Times summary included:

Their idea is that the initial melting of the great ice sheets will put a cap of relatively fresh water on the ocean surfaces near Antarctica and Greenland. That, they think, will slow or even shut down the system of ocean currents that redistributes heat around the planet and allows some of it to escape into space. Warmth will then accumulate in the deeper parts of the ocean, the scientists think, speeding the melting of parts of the ice sheets that sit below sea level.

The study, based in part on historical data, was immediately controversial not only for conclusions that contradict consensus climate science but for one of its chief authors: James Hansen.  When he was at NASA he was the gold standard for climate, but since he has left his job to become an advocate and critic of efforts to address the climate crisis, he's sometimes seen as the new James Lovelock--the pioneer who becomes an alarmist and maybe a bit of a crank.  However, as the Times story concludes, this study will be examined seriously and may well inspire more thorough examination of past and present climate data.

But just today (March 31) a completely different study came to a startlingly similar conclusion.  As the Washington Post led:

  Sea levels could rise nearly twice as much as previously predicted by the end of this century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe, according to new research published Wednesday. The main reason? Antarctica.

Antarctic melting has largely not figured in previous calculations, but with new climate models that take current understanding of the Antarctic into consideration, sea level rise doubles--and faster as well.

The difference between the two studies is maybe a few decades and that it's less inevitable in this study than in Hansen's.  To coin a phrase, it's not dark yet--but it's getting there.

If emissions continue at a high rate, however, the outcome is basically the same.  Sea level rise will become serious in the next fifty years, and thereafter become catastrophic:

“Under the high emissions scenario, the 22nd century would be the century of hell,” Strauss said. “There would really be an unthinkable level of sea rise. It would erase many major cities and some nations from the map … That century would become the century of exodus from the coast.”

In terms of the political impact of these new studies, Jonathan Chiat's column title put the baseline succinctly: New Antarctic Melting Study Confirms Voting Republican Would Trigger Worldwide Catastrophe.  The column itself is a decent summary of the current situation, both in terms of positive steps to address the climate crisis, and how the challenge just got bigger with the finding of these studies, should they hold up.

Elizabeth Kolbert at the New Yorker provides context for this second study, but comes to the same political conclusion as Chiat.

Chiat may well be too optimistic in his suggestion that current policies set in motion will be sufficient to avoid global catastrophe.  But it's pretty certain that denying the climate crisis or refusing to address it will guarantee global catastrophe.  And some of the people who will experience it are alive right now.